June 23, 2006

Archdiocesan director of liturgy reflects on new Mass translation

By Sean Gallagher

Bishop Donald W. Trautman chairman of the U.S. bishops’ Committee on Liturgy, characterized the approval of a new translation of the Order of Mass as an event that “will affect the liturgical life of every Catholic.”

That includes the faithful in central and southern Indiana. As archdiocesan director of liturgy, Father Patrick Beidelman will be at the forefront in the coming years in the effort to help parishes understand and become acclimated to the new translation.

“At times, it feels daunting to consider that we would be making a transition of this sort as a local Church,” he said. “On the other hand, I would say that it’s a great opportunity for us to grow in our understanding of why we do what we do when we come together for prayer and worship.”

For Father Beidelman, the weight of the task before him is somewhat lightened because he believes that it will be a minimum of two more years before the new translation is actually implemented.

That is because many other prayers related to feast day and votive Masses have not even been translated yet, let alone been approved by the U.S. bishops or the Holy See.

“The steps that I would encourage pastors and pastoral leaders and even Catholics in our archdiocese [to take] would be steps that I would probably encourage whether we were anticipating a change or not,” he said. “And that would be to seek out opportunities to learn more about why we do what we do when we pray, to seek to strengthen our understanding of our liturgy and good liturgical practice.”

Father Beidelman recognizes that some might wonder why so much attention is being given to the words we use in the liturgy. He hopes the coming months and years might be a time to help all Catholics recognize the important relationship of

worship to our core beliefs.

“The words we use when we pray represent what we believe,” he said. “And so the liturgical principle, lex orandi, lex credendi, —how we pray represents what we believe—is crucial. So any ritual text, any text for prayer and worship, will always be the subject of great reflection, and great care will be taken in translation.”

Father Beidelman also noted that close attention given to the new English translation of the Mass may be due to its possible impact upon translations in other languages.

He said that some bishops’ conferences don’t have the financial resources to study translations as thoroughly as has been done by English-speaking bishops through the International Commission on English in the Liturgy. These other conferences then look to the English translation for direction in their own.

“If the English text is consulted and has been translated according to dynamic equivalence, that means that they’re translating something that’s not in the original,” Father Beidelman said. “And the ability for error in translation is greater.”

Finally, Father Beidelman questioned speculation by some in the broader media soon after the approval of the translation that it will cause difficulties among Catholics in the United States.

“We should not underestimate the people of the Roman Catholic Church,” he said. “People are capable and extremely competent in grasping what they will need to grasp, what they’ll need to learn to move forward in faith with these new texts.” †


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